Monday, December 31, 2012

Remembrance of Things Past

(No recipes for Madelines today-- just a reflection.)

It's that time of year, when the skies seem perpetually grey, and dust and ashes seem to collect in my thought patterns.Yet, out of these dark recesses, I want to remember the good - to process though the past year by making a list of the things worth remembering.  The things that made this year worth it all - chaotic and difficult as it's been. So, in chronological order:

  • The Lord Jesus Christ's healing power.  I entered 2012 in the midst of the most severe depression I've experienced.   While I know my experience isn't unique -  many people have gone through that valley - my healing process was.  That December, I visited some dear friends who listened, and reflected, and were praying for me.  It should have been no surprise one Sunday night in late January, that my pastor felt led to hold a Mark 16 prayer line. I went through, and the Holy Ghost power hit me.  At that point, I knew I was healed.  But sometimes the complete manifestation comes a bit later.  Slowly, throughout February, March and April, strength returned.  My moods seemed to lift with the lengthening days, and slowly, God manifested the promise found in that prayer line. 
  • A do-over.  I needed one badly last year, so the fact that I was teaching a semester classes, where I could begin again in January, was yet again another blessing. 
  • My nephews.  Circumstances changed last year, and I'm with my brother's children more now than ever.  I've found it to be one of the best, most difficult, but most fun challenges I've ever encountered.  They are precious, smart, funny guys, and I love the fact that they're in my life more.    
  • EUROPE!  I'd always wanted to go to Europe, especially with one of my sisters.  The Lord laid this opportunity in both of our laps, and we ended up traveling for twenty-one days with a group of students.  While it was difficult (and I'm not sure I'll do this again), it really was the opportunity of a lifetime.  

  • My dog, Ella, has been a new adventure for me - going through the stages of puppy hood has been-- Ahem--interesting to say the least.  But she's a love, and she came into my life just when I needed her.

  • Patience.  Endurance.  Finding grace in the waiting, and growth through difficulties. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dorrie and Debbie--AKA the Apple Pie Post

The reason I have my favorite apple pie is because of my Aunt Debbie.

When I was a girl, she was the "wonder aunt"-- the one who always had the best food, and the coolest "toys." (She also had the best cat named Noodle.) She's probably the one I was imitating when I bustled about in the kitchen at age five. Because the woman, quite simply, can cook. (She also can write, but that's a whole 'nother post.)

When I see her now, the conversation naturally goes to cooking. She and I share ideas, and I always enjoy seeing how she works in the kitchen. And after trying my hardest to get the spices right on apple pie, I finally asked for her recipe. And then, really without knowing, she introduced me to my favorite pie crust.

You see, when she started to realize just how much I like to cook, she started giving me birthday presents along that line-- like Dori Greenspan's Baking:From My Home to YoursI took one look at the "Good for Everything Pie Dough", and knew I had to try it. I've used it, without fail, since then.

That pie dough, along with her never-fail, super-simple apple pie recipe, is the reason I think I have found the best apple pie. If I haven't, I don't know it.  :)

Good for Anything Pie Dough
Dori says this dough is enough for one double-crust pie, but I usually get three pie shells out of it.   That means I make an apple pie, and then freeze a pie shell, ready for quiche or another open-faced pie. I also freeze any leftover pie dough to make pie crust cookies.

3 c. flour (I usually make my crust at least 1/3 whole wheat/sprouted flour)
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
2 1/2 sticks butter (12 T.) very cold (or frozen), cut into half-inch pieces
1/3 c. shortening (LARD, of course!)
1/2 c. ice water

Combine flour, sugar, and salt into the food processor; pulse to mix.  Add butter and lard and pulse until fat is the size of small peas.  Begin adding ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until dough begins to barely clump together.  If it doesn't start clumping, the add a little more water and  run the processor with a couple of long pulses.  When the dough is a shaggy mass, turn out onto a surface.  Form at least two (or three) balls of dough and wrap with wax paper or plastic.  Chill for at least an hour.

Apple Pie

1 recipe of double-crust pie dough

6 c. apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly (I like to use the food processor.)
(Aunt Debbie always uses Granny Smith, but I've had good success with mixing Granny Smith with one other, non- cooking variety or Mutsus, my favorite local apple.)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 c. sugar
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 t. cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
dash of salt-- especially if using unsalted butter
butter, cut into thin slices

Grease and flour a pie pan.  (Recently I've discovered a cast iron pie pan that is amazing.  I would recommend it to anyone.)

Roll out one pie crust thinly, lifting and turning the dough to create an even sheet.  (Lifting the dough also helps you realize if your dough is sticking.)  Fold in half or fourths and transfer carefully into your pan.  Once unfolded, lightly press into the pan to remove any air pockets.  Allow dough to drape over the sides, but trim to one inch around the pan. Place in the refrigerator if the apples need to be prepared.

Sprinkle apples with lemon juice, and mix in flour, spices and salt together.  Place all ingredients into pie pan. Dot with butter-as much as you feel like you can! (I usually use 2 Tablespoons.)

Roll out top crust as before, and place on top of pie.  Trim the top  to just over the edge of the pan, like this:

Roll the edge of the bottom crust on top, folding and sealing them together.  If you wish, crimp the edges.  (Mine usually don't look like I've done anything like that when the oven heat hits it-- I still try, though.)

Vent the crust, cutting 4-5 slashes into the top crust with a sharp knife.  For extra-special treatment, make leaves with the left-over dough, and place them around the middle near the vents.  Then brush the crust with egg white, and sprinkle a tiny bit of sugar on top.  

Place a cookie sheet (preferably one with a lip) in the oven, below where you plan to bake the pie.  (This will collect extra juices, because this pie will leak. It just will.) Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes, until the pie is golden-brown and bubbling.  I usually check halfway through and cover (I place another cookie sheet on a rack above the pie)  if I feel like it's browning too quickly.

It's best if you can wait at least an hour to dig into your pie-- that way, the juices will slowly settle back into the apples, and your crust won't be swimming in delicious pie-juice.   You can serve it a la mode, preferably with real ice cream--but Bryer's does in a pinch.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Beautiful Day

At 7:00 I sluggishly walk down and begin the crockpot, turning on the grits, prepped the night before.

And then go back to bed.

Up 'til 2 AM the night before, prepping for a camping.  Then, up again at 3 AM, sick.

Awake again by eight-thirty, still not feeling the best, I head to the kitchen to make coffee.  My nephews, I. and S. are busy with leggos as I shuffle around, finishing details.   Drink coffee, but that's about it.  Feed boys.  Finish cooking for camping.  Get a shower, wiping the dirt of the morning away.    I attempt to start packing my clothes. The rain falls in sheets:  not good weather for camping.

We take care of a couple of things around the house.

And then, we find out the camper's fridge is broken.  The boys are heart-broken. Why can't we just use coolers?  I. asks.  And I understand: these boys have rolled with the punches much better than I would have as a child.

But there's grace in the afternoon sunlight.  Slowly, I begin to feel more like myself.  I gradually start eating again.  And the morning's rain now comes and goes gently, caressing our faces as we wait out this delay.  Music softly plays in the background as I finish my packing.  We leave early the next morning.

Sometimes, there's grace in waiting.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Five-Minute Friday: Back and Forward

It tastes like regret, leaving what I've been doing for the past two years.  It fits so well with my belief that students need to know there's a life outside the place that they live, and to understand their own culture well enough to not feel threatened by others'.

But I'm back to the ELA classroom-- teaching specifically writing. 

I'll miss the sweetness of sixth graders.  I'll miss starting over in the middle of the year.  I'll miss teaching something I can conjure curriculum for out of my brain and imagination and creativity.

But I'm looking forward to the writing process.  I'm looking forward to conferencing with students once more.  I'm looking to strengthening students as individuals, and hopefully as life-long learners. 

And once again, I feel that panic:  I'm not good enough.  I'll fall flat on my face.  And, of course, I'm not.  I will.   Which means, I return to my ultimate source, and depend on Him.  Without him, I'm sure to fail.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

5 Minute Friday: Greatest

Today, my head is full of unnecessary things. A chalkboard, thick with dust from writing and erasing.

End of school.  Beginning of summer.  Endless to-do lists.  The classroom's a mess, I've got papers to grade, and a curriculum to plan for next year, and my brain. is. done.

The pain behind my left eye, and its auras, entensifies. 

Then,  I remember the quote I've copied to my whiteboard at school.  It stopped me in my tracks yesterday:

To love God is the greatest romance.
To seek God is the greatest adventure.
To find God is the greatest Acheivement.                  
And I learn, all over again, how to find peace in all the chaos: give it all to God.

Saturday, April 07, 2012


I haven't been here for a while, because most of my stories are unfinished.  You know the way you start a project, and then it gets left alone for months on end?  I've been at loose ends-- not quite finishing one thing before beginning another.   So I've been sitting on my stories, waiting for the loose ends to be tidied up. 

When it happens, I'll be so happy to share them.  'Cause I know my Lord will have worked out the kinks--all those problems I didn't know how to face, all those pieces that are sepparate and yet unsewn.